One of the many benefits of being retired is that I have time to really prepare for and enjoy the holidays. Not since I was in college have I had the time to enjoy baking and decorating the way that I am this season. And for me, a large part of that means baking!
The Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cookies are a family favorite. I have never had them actually last until Christmas. And this year promises to be no exception. But I did buy enough ingredients that I will be able to bake a second batch in time for the actual holiday.
I came across a recipe for the Russian Tea Cakes when I was in late high school or maybe when I started college. These were a personal favorite of my mother’s and she always looked forward to me making them. I have also heard them called Snowballs. By either name, they are delicious.
I love these Coconut Cookies at any time of year. They have a nice melt in your mouth, caramel taste because they contain both white and brown sugar. They are not necessarily a holiday cookie but I was on a reminiscent binge as I was baking.
I did throw something new into the mix this year because I have been given Muddy Buddies as a gift and they are tasty. The recipe is not much of a secret as it is brought to us by the folks that make Chex cereal. Just check the box for the recipe. Does this mean that Muddy Buddies are a breakfast food? I vote yes!
At the rate we are going through these cookies, I anticipate baking some other kinds too. Maybe Aunt Clara’s Molasses Crinkles or Aunt Jane’s Candy Cane shaped cookies. When I was a kid we had two people who often gave us trays of assorted types of cookies as a Christmas gift. They were always much appreciated. Even then I knew what a special gift they were because of how much work it was to make this many kinds of cookies and because they were a labor of love. They are more than just cookies. To me, they represent thoughtfulness, caring, and wanting to share with those you care about.
That is why I am such a Christmas girl. Each year, I remember the traditions and kindnesses shared by so many people in my life. I want to relive them as well as share them others. Merry Christmas One and All!
I had forgotten what a beautiful thing it is to have a dog that you communicate with on a personal level. It takes years of working together to achieve such a bond. I haven’t had it since my dog Duncan passed in 2013. I noticed recently that I have reached this point with Shelby.
She watches me and is generally able to anticipate what I want from her. I have had Shelby for about 7 years now. She is 9 years old and has been a certified therapy dog for 5 1/2 of those years. I was without a therapy dog after Duncan’s passing so had to train Shelby with no one for her to learn the ropes from. She learned the basic behaviors quickly and passed the test with no problem. The trusting working bond is not something you can teach though. It is something that is built, something earned. This takes time and experiences.
It dawned on me recently that I now have this with Shelby. She is my go to dog whenever I need assistance on a job, or a reliable partner. Shelby has worked numerous public events with me including some with hundreds of people petting her. She has assisted me at county fair demonstrations. She has taught two (so far) therapy dog training classes with me at the vocational school. She has helped me test potential new therapy dog and handler teams for 5 years.
Shelby and I have put in many trips to visit at nursing facilities. She has earned the title TDIA (Therapy Dogs International Active) and is well on her way to the next title. She will “go visit” on command. She will hold a sit-stay will I put chairs away after a visit. We have done reading to kindergarteners, we have visited with college students to de-stress.
Shelby is a happy worker. She loves to work. In fact if I don’t give her a job, she will find one. Such as barking at extra cars through the window until they go away. Or stopping the cats from too much roughhousing. I can trust Shelby to do a job and do it well. I always watch her when we are working though. Unexpected situations do arise and I am her protector.
This level of relationship is rare. My hope for you is that you are able to experience it. It is a blessing and a gift.
Peaches are in season! We got half a peck at the Farm Market nearby this morning. So this evening I made pie. Pie prepared with fresh fruit is a whole different experience than having a store bought pie.
Honey Rocks are also in season! They are a large muskmelon. They are slightly different than a cantaloupe, they are, well …, muskier. And they have visible ribs. Delicious!
A few weeks ago I picked enough black raspberries from our bushes to bake a pie.
And a few weeks before that I harvested service berries from our bushes and made a pie.
See a theme here? Living in the country does have numerous benefits!
Plants are amazing things. From tiny seeds, or sometimes bulbs, an entire plant springs forth. For most of the plants we are past the stage where they invest all their energy in growing stems and leaves. Now the buds that developed are bursting open and into flower.
The plants put on a show and enter one of the most beautiful times of the year. Certainly the most colorful.
These are all plants from our gardens and around our yard. We are blessed to live with such beauty.
This bed has plants that are loved by butterflies. We are just recently started seeing butterflies for the year but I anticipate many more to come.
And we must not forget the plants that bless us with beautiful scents. My husband brought this gardenia bush inside and tended it all winter. This is the year’s first blossom. It is the first of many as the bush is loaded with buds. On a summer’s eve few scents are sweeter.
May you enjoy similar such gifts from the lowly seed.
I had the most wonderful experience this past weekend at a post funeral dinner. The funeral was for my one time mother-in-law (MIL), and forever mom and friend. The service was beautifully orchestrated by the aforementioned MIL. It was a fine send off, with some tears, and a whole lot of celebration of her life. And there was a lot to celebrate.
Afterwards, there was “the Luncheon”. This was a somewhat uncertain event for me because it would be the first encounter with my ex-husband since our divorce some 17 years previously. And calculating out just how long it had actually been, makes me wonder why I gave it any credence at all. That is one heck of a long time!
I have remained family and friends with the ex-husband’s relatives over these many years. They continued to play an important part in my life, even becoming friends with my new husband. This was as it should be. I got divorced from one person, not a family.
There were some minor concerns in my mind about how the whole day would go. I didn’t know how my reception would from my ex and his current wife. Over the years I had thought there were some negative thoughts and impressions of me, and no doubt at some point there were. That would be natural and expected.
However, at “the Luncheon” my ex’s wife approached me with something to say. And what she had to say was this, which I will paraphrase. “Thank you for coming. It was very kind of you to come. Insert MIL’s name, loved you and she would be happy that you are here.” There were a few other pleasantries of a similar nature passed back and forth but this was the crux of it.
I can’t think of a more kind, compassionate, heartfelt gesture she could have made. This was a true gift. I didn’t have to wonder any more how things would go. What a special person she has proven herself to be.
I take a lesson from this encounter. Be kind. Always. It makes the world a better place.
Here you see one of the greatest gifts we have ever received. This is our dog Baxter. Also known as Baxter Pup, Baxter McWaxter, and Wiggle Butt. He is one of our greatest joys.
Baxter was dumped off in our yard when he was but a wee pup. He was in good health. We like to think that he came from a loving home that cared about him. We wonder if perhaps they were not able to provide for him but knew of the Crazy Dog People that lived on the corner. If we drop him off there, surely he will find a loving home. How right they were. We did briefly put him in a crate by the road thinking someone lost him. That lasted all of about 20 minutes before we brought him in the house.
He has been a wonderful dog from day one. He didn’t get into things. He didn’t cause any trouble. I did start training him right away. As a pup he looked like a Rottweiler. I wanted to make sure I had such a large dog, of a powerful breed, under control. So every evening I took him for a walk across the street to the cemetery and we worked on obedience. Baxter never did grow into the Rottweiler that I anticipated. He stayed slender and topped out around 60 lbs. He also remained a marshmallow. We still have to be careful not to yell at home or he will roll over and piddle. If we raise a voice at him he will slink into another room and hide. He is seven years old now. I don’t see him outgrowing that anytime soon.
He gets along with all other dogs and cats, and I imagine all animals. He is a peace loving soul. Our greyhound Phoebe took to him from that first day. She seemed to think that he was her pup and treated him as such throughout her life. Above he pauses on a walk with his “sister” Shelby. He loves to play Frisbee while Shelby runs behind him barking. Baxter listens so well that I can walk with him off leash and if we encounter other walkers or bicyclists, I can point to a spot beside me and say “right here” and he will stay beside me until I release him with an “ok”. This is without formal training of the action. He just wants to please and is easy to communicate with. He has always had the ability to listen and understand.
Great as they are, I do not see his good behavior and obedience as his greatest traits. His best feature is his disposition. He is a happy dog and everybody that meets him is taken with him. He smiles at people. If you are feeling down, he acts silly. He will bring you a toy. A room seems to light up and become a happier place when he enters. Handsome as he is, he is a relatively non-descript looking dog. It’s his personality and presence that make him special.
So to whoever left him at our house, we thank you. Because of your actions our lives have been forever changed for the better.
The scents of Spring wake up the senses. Lilacs waft through the air and remind me of childhood days. We had one growing outside our kitchen window and the fragrance can still transport me back in time. It also makes me think of my Mother’s lilac perfume.
The viburnum has a scent so glorious that it is the sole reason I planted it. One day I was at the library and noticed a most pleasing smell. I looked around the base of the bushes until I found an identifying tag. Viburnum. I obtained my own bush soon after.
Lily-of-the-valley grow beside our door. I am blessed with its scent each time I go in or out of the house.
These are some of the plants that I would grow for scent alone. Their fragrance can calm my mind and make me focus, blocking out all else. These are gifts of nature.
This figure was a gift from my friend Tina. I keep it out all year because it represents so many things to me. It reminds me of the dogs I rescue. And the gift that these dogs are. And I, of course, think of the friend who gave it to me when I see it. Tina has since left this world but her gifts have not. Her gift of friendship and the thoughtful attention she showed in giving are still with me.
So although this is a Christmas gift and it brings to mind the gifts of hope, and peace, and love, I find it to be appropriate throughout the year. It is a reminder that I should try to exhibit these traits and be a better person. These are ideas that I want to keep close to me the whole year long.